The "intruder" Ince spoiled the team of Kilicdaroglu and Erdogan

Indze was the Republican presidential candidate in 2018 - Photo EPA, Srdjan Suki

Ince has little chance of being elected president, but by joining the race, he created big problems for the other two candidates, especially Kilicdaroglu, with whom he has an identical voter base.

The casting of the third candidate in the presidential race in Turkey disrupted the plans of the opposition and its candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu to finally defeat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the elections.

Muharrem Ince, a former Republican party member of Kilicdaroglu, refused to join the front of the six opposition parties that decided to run with a common candidate to oppose Erdogan in the May 14 election. Representing the State (Motherland) party, which broke away from the Republican People's Party (DHP) in 2020, Indze collected the necessary 100.000 signatures from citizens to register as a presidential candidate. Collecting signatures is the responsibility of all candidates who are not supported by a parliamentary group. Explaining why he did not join the front against Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party, Ince told Hurriyet newspaper that he was not dissatisfied with either the ruling party or the opposition bloc.

At the age of 57, Muharrem Indze is one generation younger than his opponents. He has little chance of being elected president, but by joining the race, he created big problems for the other two candidates, especially Kilicdaroglu, with whom he has an identical voter base. During the period when there were two candidates, polls showed Kilicdaroglu with a slight lead over Erdogan. A higher rating of a few percent two months before elections is not an advantage against the charismatic Erdogan, who has shown many times in the campaign that he can mobilize his supporters and animate the undecided. Kilicdaroglu is a political veteran, but modesty and restraint are his "enemies" in the campaign.

Defeat in 2018

This year's elections are very different from those in 2018, when Erdogan won in the first round with 52,6 percent of the vote. It was Indze who ran as a Republican candidate and won 30,6 percent of the votes. The leadership of the JHP, including the leader Kilicdaroglu, then assessed that Indze would have more chances as a candidate, because he is more energetic.
Unlike in 2018, the Republican Party is now running with five other opposition parties. The formation of the block was not easy, and a dialogue was conducted all year to overcome the conflicting programs of the parties. This indicates that the coalition that would come to power would be "explosive" due to internal conflicts, but also that Erdogan is for the first time realistically facing an opponent who has wider support behind him.

In support of the opposition are the deep economic crisis that hit Turkey, with the fall in the value of the lira, as well as criticism from the public that the authorities did not react in time to help the victims of the catastrophic earthquake, as well as for years of not confronting the construction mafia that did not comply with the strict standards for seismic safety of buildings.

In such a situation, Ince's candidacy is among the few trump cards on Erdogan's side.

– This is bad news for the opposition. Indze has the capacity to extract votes from JHP. The support for him may contribute to the fact that there is no winner in the first round - Berk Essen, an assistant professor of political science at Istanbul's Sabancı University, told AFP.

A battle on two fronts

Indze, on the other hand, is ready for a new duel with both his greatest political ally and his greatest political opponent.

- There will be a second round of the elections and in the second round I will win with 60 percent of the votes - Indze said decisively after handing over the list of signatures.

After the disappointing defeat in the 2018 elections, he also challenged the party leader Kilicdaroglu, but lost the party race, after which he left the JHP and formed his own party. The state is aimed at secular nationalists, who are the main base of the Republican Party.

Analysts note that in Indze's case, the delay in candidacy is not a handicap at all. It is assumed that he will try to gather votes by criticizing Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu, rather than by promoting his own program, probably because he has nothing else to oppose the opponents.

- Indze will try to assert himself as an alternative, without really presenting himself to the voters. He says he's against Erdogan, he says he's against Kilicdaroglu, but he doesn't say what he's really about. No one knows - says analyst Serkan Demirtash.

Political experts are unanimous that Ince does not represent the "third way" in Turkey, because the elections will not attract people who are already determined to vote for Erdogan. Expecting to defeat at least Kılıçdaroğlu in the second match, in order to face Erdoğan, he will only open a new front for his former party member and prevent his victory in the first round. If, on the other hand, he ends up in third place, as expected, in the second round on May 28, he could condition his open support for Kilicdaroglu with political concessions.

- The outcome of the second round of the elections will depend on whether Ince and Kilicdaroglu reconcile - says Emre Peker, an analyst from the Eurasia group.

A hidden asset of the third candidate is his high rating among the young generation of Turks, who are voting for the president for the first time.

- Young people are tired of Erdogan, and they are not inspired by the restrained Kilicdaroglu, who they do not recognize as the "fresh face" - says Berk Esen.

Pending the poll results for elections with the three candidates, the opposition fears that Erdoğan will stand out in first place and thereby increase the chances of winning the elections even more. But all attempts to discourage the determined Indze were discounts. He did not change his position even after yesterday's direct meeting with Kilicdaroglu in Ankara.

– This Erdogan should go. This Erdogan is tired, arrogant and should not rule for another five minutes - said Indze.

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